Several major factors contributed to cultural change in the United States after World War II, but one of the greatest was a trend known as consumerism. Once the war was over, revved-up US industry turned from creating weapons and other materials for the war effort to automobiles, appliances, and other...
Several major factors contributed to cultural change in the United States after World War II, but one of the greatest was a trend known as consumerism. Once the war was over, revved-up US industry turned from creating weapons and other materials for the war effort to automobiles, appliances, and other products that Americans could purchase and own. Soldiers came back from the war to work and enjoy what they perceived as a coming time of peace and prosperity. Suburbs sprang up as veterans bought houses with the help of low-cost mortgages due to the G.I. Bill. From 1945 into the 1960s was what became known as the "baby boom," during which record numbers of babies were born.
These postwar families wanted not only basic necessities, but also luxury items. Besides their homes, mainly in the new suburbs, they bought cars, clothes, furniture, televisions, and other items. Americans were fed up with wartime rationing and desired abundance.
All was not idyllic in this postwar world, however, for women. Women had entered the workforce as never before during the war, but afterwards popular pressure urged them to leave work and become faithful wives and mothers. This eventually gave rise to a budding feminist movement that reached its stride in the 1960s, as women protested their second-class status.
Another group that did not benefit from the postwar consumer culture was African Americans. Many had fought overseas or worked hard at home for the war effort. However, when the war was over, they faced the same discrimination that they had before. This gave rise in the 1950s to the civil rights movement.
Postwar animosity between the United States and the Soviet Union initiated a conflict that became known as the Cold War. This affected every aspect of US culture as Americans became paranoid that communists were infiltrating their society.
Televisions became ubiquitous in American homes after the war. Families represented in popular series were generally conservative, and children were generally respectful of their parents. Westerns, spy films, and science fiction became popular on TV and in films. Among the popular shows for young kids were The Mickey Mouse Club and Captain Kangaroo.
As the kids known as Baby Boomers began to grow up, they eventually rebelled against the conservatism of their parents, giving rise to new forms of music, such as rock and roll. America would never be the same again.